Officials with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools are urging thousands of parents to send their children in long sleeves and long pants for full days of school in South Florida’s sweltering late-August heat because of the threat of the Zika virus.
The officials won’t allow students to bring standard, over-the-counter mosquito repellent to school or to apply it on the premises because it’s possible that some other student could be allergic to the active ingredients.
Schools in Miami will be back in session on Aug. 22 for nearly 400,000 students, teachers and administrators.
Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is ground zero for the Zika virus. The Miami Herald calls the area an “artsy district.” A negative Tripadvisor reviewer calls it “an utter dump, ghetto and overall dangerous area.”
Whatever the case, the one-square-mile Wynwood neighborhood has seen 15 cases of Zika since state health officials confirmed the presence of the exotic virus in the precinct of Aug. 2.
Six Miami schools — including three elementary schools — are either inside or very close to a rectangular area not too far north of American Airlines Arena which public health officials have identified as a Zika transmission area.
Local school officials are closely scrutinizing the six school campuses for mosquitoes and mosquito breeding spots such as standing water, according to the Herald.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho noted that inspectors have declared Miami’s school campuses safe from the Zika virus.
School district officials are also contemplating emergency plans to shut the half dozen schools down if necessary. They are also considering alterations to physical education schedules.
“We stand ready,” school board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall promised the Herald.
Such readiness won’t include allowing students to bring mosquito repellent to school, though.
District officials are treating insect repellent as a medication which is banned — in schools in a place where mosquitoes are abundantly transmitting the Zika virus.
In addition to the fear that a child could have an allergic reaction, another concern is that a young child could get DEET on his or her hands.
On the bright side, parents will be allowed to apply insect repellent to their children in the morning before school.
Additionally, school district officials say they may reconsider the at-school ban on insect repellent during the area’s Zika crisis.
Dorothy Contiguglia-Akcan, a local doctor and a travel specialist, is recommending that parents purchase and use products containing permethrin, a chemical which will remain on clothing even after a few washes.
Wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants will obviously cause some discomfort.
“I have three of my own who would probably kill me if I told them, in August, I’m putting them in long sleeve shirts,” Miami-Dade PTA president Alvin Gainey told the Herald. “I would feel a little bad but, in the long term, I’d feel better knowing they’re more protected.”
The average high temperature in Miami on Aug. 22 is 91 degrees, according to Weather Underground.
The record high temperature in Miami was 96 degrees — set in 1993.
Children aren’t particularly susceptible to the complications associated with Zika. If they catch the virus, they’ll likely just experience some flu-like symptoms including a fever and joint pain.
The problem, obviously, is that women compose a large percentage of the faculty at most any public school. A Zika-infected woman who is pregnant or may become pregnant can end up having babies with serious birth defects or neurological problems.
“Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains. “These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters. They can also bite at night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.”
“There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika,” the CDC adds.